In these past few weeks, I saw a novel called ‘Hell’. The cover illustration featured a cartoon of a scrawny, red hand reaching from below and forming a ‘rocking out’ hand sign in front of a fiery backdrop. This immediately reminded me a sorry misconception about Hell.
Since God and Satan are opposite (but not equal) in power, we sometimes think of Hell as the opposite of Heaven. We think that if Heaven is God’s Kingdom, then Hell must be Satan’s kingdom. That’s just not true. Here are two faults in this way of thinking.
Fault #1: Hell is a place of God’s wrath (not Satan’s)
The Gospel of Matthew talks about the time when God will judge each man and woman. It says:
The Son of Man [that’s Jesus] will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom […] all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace [that’s referring to Hell], where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
– Matthew 13:41-42
Notice that Jesus is the One who is sending out His own angels to throw into the blazing furnace all who do evil. Hell is God’s place of punishment for all who have violated His authority.
Let me make a quick point here. God’s judgement is righteous and just. Every man, woman and child deserves it because we have all violated His authority. He is our Creator, and we, His creations, have rebelled against Him. That’s deserving of His wrath.
Fault #2: Satan himself will be tormented in Hell
He’s not going to be running about having the time of his life and ‘rocking out’. He’s going to be suffering God’s wrath there. In fact, Hell was first intended for the devil and His angels.
A few chapters further in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus talks again about the day of God’s judgement on mankind. First He’ll separate His followers from the rest of the crowd, putting them on His right and the others on His left. Then He’ll invite His followers into His kingdom. Finally, He’ll address those in the group on His left. This is what Jesus says will happen:
Then he will say to those on His left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
– Matthew 25:41
Did you catch that? Hell, the place of eternal fire, was prepared for the devil and his angels.
A bit of history? Before any man or woman rebelled against God, Satan and his angels rebelled against Him. God prepared the eternal fire for them to deal with their rebellion. Then mankind followed in the devil’s footsteps. Hell, the same punishment that was prepared for the devil and his angels, was then assigned as the punishment for mankind as well.
A call to action
All this talk of Hell can become pretty depressing. In my rebellion against a Holy God, I’m deserving of this punishment, and so are you. Since He is a just Judge, He isn’t going to simply let us out of the punishment we rightfully deserve. Imagine what would happen if our human judges did that to murderers in court.
However, even though He’s just, our Creator is loving as well. He made a way for our price to be paid by someone else so that we wouldn’t have to endure Hell ourselves. That “someone else” is Jesus Himself, God’s own Son. Jesus already endured Hell and then overcame it. Now, for those who will call on Him, the time He spent there is enough to satisfy God’s righteous wrath towards them.
So today, for you, for me, and for all of mankind, there is a way of escape from Hell. We must call on Jesus, the One who willing stood in our place and received our punishment. For the one who calls on His name, the sacrifice that Jesus made for all mankind will apply personally to that individual. But for those who never call on Jesus’ name, they will still have to endure their punishment themselves.
It’s either Jesus or you. Who will it be?